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    Teak: a global overview D. Pandey and C. Brown

    An overview of global teak resources and issues affecting their future outlook.

    T eak (Tectona grandis ) is one of the worlds premier hardwoodtimbers, rightly famous for itsmellow colour, fine grain and durabil-ity. It occurs naturally only in India,Myanmar, the Lao Peoples DemocraticRepublic and Thailand, and it is natu-ralized in Java, Indonesia, where it wasprobably introduced some 400 to 600years ago. In addition, it has been es-

    tablished throughout tropical Asia, aswell as in tropical Africa (including CtedIvoire, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, theUnited Republic of Tanzania and Togo)and Latin America and the Caribbean(Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, ElSalvador, Panama, Trinidad and To-bago and Venezuela). Teak has alsobeen introduced in some islands in thePacific region (Papua New Guinea, Fijiand the Solomon Islands) and in north-ern Australia at trial levels.

    Although relatively unimportant interms of the volume of world timberproduction, because of its strength andaesthetic qualities teak is the tropical

    hardwood most in demand for a specificmarket of luxury applications includ-ing furniture, shipbuilding and decora-tive building components. It is thus of major importance in the forestry econo-mies of its main producing countries.

    Experiences with growing and market-ing teak are of considerable relevanceto growers of other high-value hardwoodspecies, particularly in the tropics. Spe-

    cies such as mahogany ( Swieteniamacrophylla ), red cedar ( Cedrelaodorata ) and rosewood ( Dalbergiasissoo ) face similar challenges of com-peting in high-value niche markets,have longer growing cycles than manysoftwoods and present similar environ-mental concerns associated with har-vesting from tropical forests. Whilesome of the issues discussed in this arti-cle are largely unique to teak as a spe-cies, many are relevant to other valu-able hardwood species.

    During the past 20 years most suppliesof teak wood from natural forests havedwindled and increased interest has de-

    Devendra Pandey is Director,Forest Survey of India.Chris Brown is ForestryOfficer (Forest Plantations),Forest ResourcesDevelopment Service, FAO.

    Teak logs, India teak is prized for its long,straight bole

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    veloped in the establishment of teak for-est plantations. The transition towardsgreater utilization of plantation-grownteak is not, however, being made with-out difficulty or controversy. Until re-cently, misgivings over the environmen-tal impacts of teak plantations particularly controversies regardingpossible soil deterioration and erosionin pure teak plantations rivalled thoseoften associated with eucalypt planta-

    tions. Further controversy has been gen-erated in several countries by the pro-motion of teak plantation investmentschemes based on unlikely growth andyield projections, unrealistic pricing sce-narios and dubious fund managementstrategies. Problems have mainly re-sulted from insufficient regulation andinadequate information or investor edu-cation. The long time horizons and broadrange of price predictions associated withteak plantation investment have pro-vided opportunities for less scrupulousentrepreneurs to exaggerate figures anddeceive even moderately wary investors(see Box).

    Nonetheless, with teak remaining oneof the worlds most valuable timbers, in-terest in growing and investing in the spe-cies will remain high. Legislation andvigilance in both the commercial and theenvironmental spheres will be necessaryto ensure that the teak-growing industrydevelops in an orderly fashion.

    ECOLOGYTectona grandis is a large deciduous

    tree with a rounded crown and, underfavourable conditions, a tall clean cy-lindrical bole of more than 25 m. Thebase of the tree is often buttressed (hav-ing outgrowths at the base caused byexaggerated root swelling) and some-times fluted (having irregular involu-tions and swellings in the bole). Leavesare broadly elliptical or obovate andusually 30 to 60 cm long. Over most of its range, teak occurs in moist and drydeciduous forests below 1 000 m eleva-tion and is one of the several speciesconstituting mixed forest stands. Itgrows best in localities with annual rain-fall of 1 250 to 3 750 mm, minimum

    temperature of 13 to 17C and maxi-mum temperature of 39 to 43C.

    Natural teak forests mainly grow onhilly and undulating terrain with traps,basalt, granite, schist, gneiss, limestoneand sandstone as underlying rocks. Thebest teak forests, both natural and plan-tation forests, grow in well-draineddeep alluvium. Teak plantations havefailed completely when they have beenestablished on low-lying, poorly

    drained land with clay soils (Seth andYadav, 1959).Teak is a light-demanding species; it

    does not tolerate shade or suppressionat any stage of its life and requiresunimpeded overhead light for its properdevelopment. Teak coppices and pol-lards vigorously and sometimes retainsits coppicing potential even after at-taining large size. Teak begins flower-ing and seeding at a young age, about20 years from seedling and about tenyears from coppice, and produces abun-dant seeds almost every year (Seth andKaul, 1978). The hard thick pericarp of the seed prevents easy germination and

    In the natural forests of Myanmar, teak

    grows mainly on hilly and undulating terrain

    and is one of several species constituting

    mixed stands

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    Teak plantation investment schemes havecreated considerable controversy in severalcountries including Costa Rica, India andthe Netherlands. Probably the most high-profile case concerned a Netherlands-owned company, Flor y Fauna, involved inestablishing teak plantations in CostaRica.

    Flor y Fauna commenced planting teak innorthern Costa Rica in 1989. By 1994 it hadplanted 1 300 ha. Investors were invited topurchase teak trees with a down payment of around US$2 600 and annual contributionsof US$300 for 20 years. The scheme envis-aged investments of US$65 750 per hec-tare, which would yield projected returns of between US$600 000 and US$1.4 million,

    at an internal rate of return (IRR) of 15 to25 percent per year.

    Many of the price, growth and yield as-sumptions used in projecting returns were,however, highly optimistic in comparisonwith current documented levels. The teakplantations were expected to yield 40 to48 m3 per hectare per year, and the woodwas to be sold at prices varying from US$720to $2 100 per cubic metre (based on annualprice increases of 4 to 8 percent per year).Independent estimates suggested that more

    viable mean annual increments at harvestwould be in the range of 9 to 20 m 3 perhectare per year and that mature teak logs

    were likely to fetch US$400 to $550 percubic metre.

    The assumptions behind the estimated ratesof return were examined by a Netherlandsadvertising standards authority and Com-mittee of Appeals, which concluded thatadvertised returns on investment were mis-leading. The commercial teak investmentpackage was withdrawn from the marketin late 1996.

    The key point is that long-term forestryinvestments with uncertain returns lendthemselves to overly optimistic (and unre-alistic) investment projections, which areinitially highly attractive but are likely tolead to investor disillusionment and bringthe sector into disrepute in the longer term.

    Governments need to be aware of thispotential and to establish regulationsaccordingly.

    Teak plantation investment controversies

    Source: Adapted from Centeno (1996).

    a considerable portion of fresh seeds re-mains dormant in the first year. Teak seeds remain viable for many years.

    MANAGEMENT OF NATURAL TEAKFORESTSThe earliest attempts to manage thenatural forests of teak in India andMyanmar were through the selectionsystem: a given tract of forest wasworked in a predetermined felling cy-

    cle by cutting trees that had reached acertain minimum girth, with a provisothat where teak regeneration was absent,seed bearers were to be left standing.The number of trees to be removed inany year or over a given period was fixed(Troup, 1921).

    A modified version of the selectionsystem is still followed in some places.To induce or establish regeneration of teak, improvement fellings to remove

    inferior wood, damaged stems andclimbers are carried out under a defi-nite felling cycle. Under selection fell-ing, the rotation is generally 120 yearswith a felling cycle of about 30 years.FAO (1999a) has estimated a harvest-ing intensity of 12 to 17 m 3 per hectare

    for Myanmars forests, using a 30-yearfelling cycle.Coppicing of teak has been used to

    manage natural teak forests under dif-ferent systems suited to local situationsin India, Myanmar and Thailand. In par-ticular, coppice systems have been ap-plied to teak forests where trees do notgrow to a large size because of exces-sively dry or other poor site conditions.An example is the coppice with stand-ards system, in which 25 to 50 trees perhectare are selected as standards, on thebasis of their larger diameter, and areretained as seed-bearers. The remain-der are clear-felled to produce coppiceshoots. The rotation varies between 30and 60 years; in rare instances it is 80years (Kadambi, 1972). In a modifiedsystem, coppice with reserves, prac-tised in Madhya Pradesh, India, ad-vanced-growth and pole-sized trees areretained as reserves which will providelarge-size timber in the next rotation.The rotation period varies between 30

    and 40 years.

    TEAK PLANTATIONSTeak is known to perform well in plan-tations under favourable conditions. Inthis characteristic it contrasts with someof the more commercially known andvaluable tropical hardwood species. Forexample, many of the species that makeup the timber wealth of the African tropi-cal forests (e.g. species of the Meliaceaefamily, the African mahoganies Khayaivorensis , K. anthoteca and K. grandi-

    folia , and Entandophragma spp.) haveproved unamenable to growing in plan-tations for reasons such as exceedingly

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    eastern Ghana (formerly Togoland)started around 1905 (Kadambi, 1972).A small plantation of teak wasestablished in Cte dIvoire in 1929from plantation-grown seeds obtainedfrom Togoland.

    The first teak plantation in tropicalAmerica was established in Trinidadand Tobago in 1913 (Keogh, 1979) withseed from Myanmar. Planting of teak inHonduras, Panama and Costa Ricastarted between 1927 and 1929.

    Statistics on the historical progress of teak plantation establishment are in-complete, but it is clear that up to 1950the major area under teak plantationwas in Java, Indonesia, with about300 000 ha. There was a gradual in-crease in the area of teak plantationsthrough the 1950s and 1960s to an esti-mated 900 000 ha in 1970 (Kadambi,1972; Tewari, 1992). The pace of teak planting further accelerated in the late1970s, mainly as a result of financial

    support provided by external donoragencies. The total area of teak planta-tion increased to 1.7 million ha in 1980(Pandey, 1983) and 2.2 million ha in1990 (FAO, 1995). More than 90 per-cent of the 1990 total was located inAsia.

    Plantation areas and planting ratesTeak plantations constitute about 8percent of the total plantation area incountries with climates suitable forteak growing. In 1995, about 94 percentof global teak plantations were intropical Asia, with India (44 percent)and Indonesia (31 percent) accounting

    Teak begins flowering and seeding at a young age, about 20 years from seedling and about ten years from coppice

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    slow growth, suspectibility to mortal-ity in establishment on cleared land(being climax rather than pioneer spe-

    cies) or vulnerability to pests and dis-eases. Mahogany ( Swietenia macro- phylla ) is one of the few other luxuryhardwoods that is extensively grown inplantations. It seems likely that therewill be a significant divergence in fu-ture timber supply potential betweenthose species amenable to plantationand those largely dependent on an es-tablished natural forest habitat.

    Mixed plantations of teak with othertree species are generally less suscepti-ble than pure teak plantations to soilerosion and pest and disease risks. Pureteak plantations are susceptible to de-foliating pests, particularly when

    understorey growth is suppressed andsite conditions are suboptimal.

    History of teak plantationsApart from the introduction of teak inJava, Indonesia (see p. 3), the first teak plantation was started in 1680 in SriLanka. Teak planting in India began inthe 1840s and increased to signifi-cant levels from 1865 onwards. Teak plantations using the taungya method,in which a forest crop is established intemporary association with agriculturalcrops, were initiated in Myanmar in 1856and in Indonesia around 1880.

    Teak was first introduced outside Asiain Nigeria in 1902 (Horne, 1966), withseed first from India and subsequentlyfrom Myanmar. Planting in what is now

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    for the bulk of the resource. Othercountries of the region with significantplanted teak resources were Thailand(7 percent), Myanmar (6 percent),Bangladesh (3.2 percent) and Sri Lanka(1.7 percent). About 4.5 percent of global teak plantations were in tropicalAfrica (largely in moist West Africa,particularly in Cte dIvoire andNigeria) and the remainder were intropical America (mostly in Costa Ricaand Trinidad and Tobago) and thePacific Islands.

    FAOs most recent regional estimates(Table 1) suggest that the increase inthe global net area of teak plantationshas been negligible since 1990 (FAO,1995), despite a reported rate of newplanting of more than 100 000 ha peryear. This anomalous result reflectsdiscrepancies in historical reported

    national planta-tion areas as well as thefact that a large, although unquantified,part of the reported new planting isactually replanting of existingplantations following harvest. The rateof new plantation establishment inmany tropical countries does, however,appear to have slowed notably since1990. Most planting reported in 1995was in India, Myanmar, Thailand andIndonesia in tropical Asia, and in CostaRica and Panama in tropical America.

    Plantation managementTeak plantation management regimesvary between and within countries,mainly according to site-specific con-ditions and prevailing markets. Typi-cally, however, it is recommended thatinitial stocking rates be in the range of 1 000 to 2 000 stems per hectare to al-

    low for early mortality rates and to pro-vide an opportunity for selecting thebetter individuals during thinning op-erations. Partially depending on theintensity of planting, an initial thinningshould be considered as soon as thebranches start to make contact withthose of surrounding trees; this mayoccur when the plantation is around fourto five years old and the intensity of removals may be as high as 50 percentof the initial stocking. A productionthinning may follow at about age ten to15, and a final production thinning ataround 15 to 20 years. Again depend-ing on market requirements and otherfactors, an ideal final stocking is likelyto be around 200 to 300 stems per hec-tare, or approximately some 300 m 3 of wood. Management practices may varysignificantly, however, depending onwhether teak is grown on short or longrotations.

    One of teaks major advantages overother tropical hardwood timber speciesis the amount of technical informationon production and management that isavailable for the species, as it has beenresearched and grown across a wide va-riety of locations and sites.

    Productivity and volume estimates

    The productivity of teak plantationshas been studied across a broad rangeof countries through permanent sampleplots. The earliest yield table for teak was constructed by von Wulfing (1932)for plantations on Java, Indonesia.Laurie and Ram (1939) constructed ayield table for teak plantationsdistributed over present-day India,Myanmar and Bangladesh. Morerecently, yield tables have beendeveloped using data from permanentand temporary sample plots forplantations of teak established outsideits natural range, including provisionalyield tables for Trinidad and Tobago

    This plantation in Dong Nai Province, southern Viet Nam, is one of the oldest teak plantations in the country

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    (Miller, 1969), Cte dIvoire (Maitre,1983), Nigeria (Abayomi, 1984) and SriLanka (Phillips, 1995).

    An important feature of all teak yield

    tables is the early peak of mean annualvolume increment (MAI), generallybetween six and 20 years. Because teak is planted and managed for timber pro-duction, size plays a decisive role indetermining harvesting, rather than theage of maximum volume production.The rotation age of plantation teak inits natural range has varied between 50and 90 years, while outside its range therotation age is between 40 and 60 years.Table 2 compares the MAI at 50 years(taken as the average age at harvest) andat the age of maximum volume produc-tion, as derived from the various yieldtables.

    There is a paucity of data on actualyield obtained at harvest of teak fromdifferent site classes and countries. Lim-ited data available from Indonesia andIndia suggest that the actual harvest ob-tained from teak plantations is muchlower than the yields indicated in Table2. In Indonesia, the average actual MAIat harvest age, with rotation varyingbetween 40 and 90 years, was 2.91 m 3

    per hectare per year (FAO, 1986), whileTable 2 estimates an average of 13.8 m 3

    per hectare per year. Perum Perhutani,the State-owned company that managesthe major teak plantation areas in Indo-nesia, has confirmed that the actual yieldof teak at final felling is about 100 m 3

    per hectare at about 70 years, with a simi-lar volume obtained from thinnings. TheMAI at rotation age is, consequently,about 3 m3 per hectare per year (PerumPerhutani, unpublished data).

    Similarly, in India, the actual yieldobtained from thinnings and finalfellings in Koni Forest in Kerala Stateaveraged 172 m3 per hectare with a 70-year rotation, giving an MAI of about2.5 m3 per hectare per year (FAO, 1985).The site class for teak in Koni Forestwas considered to be between the aver-age and the best, but poor stocking wasconsidered the main reason for such a

    low yield. Similar yields were also foundduring plantation inventory of teak inBangladesh. However, in teak planta-tion inventories in Benin and CtedIvoire, the estimated MAI with a 40-to 50-year rotation age was found torange between 8 and 11 m 3 per hectareper year. The estimated yield in CostaRica with 40-year rotation is 6.9 m 3 perhectare per year (M. Gomez, personalcommunication).

    The general conclusion is that the ac-tual productivity of teak plantations hasoften been much lower than indicatedin yield tables; this is probably becausesample plots are likely to receive more

    management attention than fieldplantings and because of statistical in-adequacies of the samples.

    Pandey (1996) has developed a modelto predict the potential productivity of teak plantations at the global or re-gional level using climatic factors. Cli-matic variables explain 59 percent of the variance of the potential yield of teak plantations. Relative humidity andannual rainfall were identified as themost important climatic factors influ-encing the growth of teak. Above cer-tain upper limits, however (70 percentand 2 000 mm per year, respectively),increases in their values result in suc-cessively less increase in the potentialyield.

    ROUNDWOOD PRODUCTIONAND TRADE IN TEAKSince teak plantation establishment isrelatively recent in most countries out-side its natural range, current produc-tion of mature teak is largely restrictedto the traditional large producers,Myanmar, India and Indonesia (Table3). Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Trinidad andTobago and a few other countries pro-duce mature roundwood from planta-tions. Production of immature round-wood from plantation thinnings,

    mainly for utilization as posts and poles,is more widespread.Myanmar the only Asian producer

    that allows relatively unconstrainedexport of teak logs dominates the ex-port trade in teak logs, while China andThailand are the two largest importers.The other substantial exporter of teak logs has been Cte dIvoire, which un-til recently excluded teak from its logexport ban. Other exporters of teak logs,including several African countries andsome Latin American countries (suchas Trinidad and Tobago and Ecuador),deal in relatively minor volumes.

    Exports of teak sawn timber are mostly

    TABLE 1. Estimated net plantationarea of teak by subregion, 1995(1 000 ha)

    Subregion Estimated Estimatednet area annualof teak p la nt ing


    West Sahelian Africa 4.02 0

    East Sahelian Africa 14.85

    Moist West Africa 87.88 4

    Southern Africa 2.80 0

    Tropical Africa 109.55 4

    South Asia 1 099.60 55

    Continental Southeast Asia 302.28 26

    Insular Southeast Asia 706.01 12

    Tropical Asia 2 107.89 93

    Tropical Oceania 3.03 0

    Central America 22.29 4Caribbean 8.06

    Tropical South America 2.72 0

    Tropical America 33.07 4

    TOTAL 2 253.54 101

    Source: Pandey (1998).

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    TABLE 2. MAI maximum and at 50 years rotation age for different siteclasses (m3 /ha/year)

    Country Best Average Poor

    MAI (max) MAI (50) MAI (max) MAI (50) MAI (max) MAI (50)

    Cte dIvoire 17.6 9.5 12.2 7.5 6.8 4.3

    India 12.3 10.0 7.9 5.8 2.7 2.0

    Indonesia 21.0 17.6 14.4 13.8 9.6 9.6

    Myanmar 17.3 12.0 12.5 8.7 5.9 4.3

    Nigeria a 23.8 13.3 18.5 9.0 13.1 6.8

    Trinidad and Tobago a 10.2 6.5 7.5 5.0 5.5 3.9

    a Yield tables have been prepared based on an inadequate number of sample plots and are provisional.

    from Myanmar and Indonesia, withThailand and Cte dIvoire also export-ing significant volumes (Table 3). Arange of other countries, includingGhana, China, the United Republic of Tanzania and Ecuador, export moremodest volumes. All of Indias teak pro-duction is processed within the coun-try. India is also a significant net im-porter of teak, including shipments of logs and sawn timber from Africa andLatin America.

    The largest manufacturers of teak products are Indonesia, Thailand, Indiaand China. India produces sawn timber(for construction and decorative uses)and decorative plywood almost exclu-sively for use in its domestic market.

    China and Thailand have relativelylarge teak processing industries basedon imported roundwood, while Indo-nesia processes its own plantation-grown teak. Much of this production isexported to Europe and North Americaas finished consumer items such as fur-niture, or as sawn timber, particularlydestined for decorative uses, boatbuilding and outdoor applications suchas decking. In general, volumes of na-tional imports (and often exports) of teak products are poorly documentedor inaccessible.

    Thinnings from immature teak plan-tations comprise a substantial propor-

    tion of the production of the othercountries shown in Table 3. Becauseof teaks durability much of this pro-duction is utilized as posts and poles,although a part also finds its way intohigher-value end-uses. For example,Zamora (1998) reports that companiesin Costa Rica produce furniture com-ponents and small flooring boards fromsix- to seven-year-old teak thinnings.

    POLICIES AND LEGISLATIONAFFECTING TEAK MANAGEMENT,PRODUCTION AND TRADENatural forestsPolicies and legislation ban or severelyrestrict harvesting in natural forests inall the countries within teaks natural

    range except Myanmar. Logging inMyanmar is conducted according to theMyanmar Selection System: the ForestDepartment selects mature trees for har-vest and Myanmar Timber Enterprises,a government corporation, is the soleagency responsible for extraction. As aresult of Myanmars long experiencewith harvesting under this system, teak management is generally well regardedin terms of environmental sustainabil-ity (Wint, 1998).

    All industrial harvesting in the natu-ral forests of Thailand has been bannedsince 1989, although logging of teak has reportedly continued illegally in

    TABLE 3. Indicative annual

    production and exports of teakroundwood and sawn timber (m3)

    Country Roundwood Roundwood Sawnproduction exports timber


    Myanmar 358 000 179 200 33 100

    India a 250 000 0 0

    Indonesia 750 000 0 35 000

    Thailand 12 900 0 5 000

    Othercountries b 424 100 134 300 14 800

    Total 1 795 000 313 500 87 900

    a This estimate, the most recent for India, dates back to1970.b A rough approximation based on a range of diversesources and estimation methods for each producercountry.

    some areas, notably along the Myanmarborder (for example, in Salween Na-tional Park) ( Bangkok Post , 1998). Oneeffect of the ban appears to be an in-crease in harvest levels in neighbour-ing Myanmar (as well as in Cambodiaand the Lao Peoples DemocraticRepublic). For example, where averageannual log exports from Myanmar hadbeen 400 000 m3 in the period 1985 to1989, they increased to 1 225 000 m3

    in the period 1990 to 1994 (FAO,1999b).

    In India, clear-felling of teak has beenbanned in most teak-growing provincessince 1986. In 1997, a Supreme Courtorder placed further restrictions on thefelling of any tree in natural forestareas. Harvesting in natural forests mayonly be carried out in accordance withthe working plans of state governments.As a result, Indian teak imports haveincreased dramatically. Within India,the absence of recent data on teak pro-duction makes it impossible to quan-tify market effects.

    Teak harvesting in the Lao PeoplesDemocratic Republic has been largelyprohibited since 1989. Much of the cur-rent production is the recovery of old

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    logs from previous harvesting and fromareas of shifting cultivation, which isestimated to amount to around 500 m 3

    per year. In principle, the country ap-plies a ban on log exports, although sig-nificant volumes of roundwood are stillexported as a result of technical loop-

    holes (Gyi and Tint, 1998).Log export restrictions or taxes in anumber of other teak-producing coun-tries, particularly Indonesia but alsothe Philippines, Viet Nam, peninsularMalaysia and Ghana, also have an in-fluence on the global teak trade.

    Plantation establishmentGovernment influences on plantationestablishment generally fall in two cat-egories: direct government plantingprogrammes and the payment of incen-tives for plantation establishment.

    The great majority of the worlds teak plantations have been established un-der government planting programmes.The government has had a dominantrole in plantation establishment in In-dia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand,

    countries that account for about 87 per-cent of the worlds teak plantations. Inthe future, however, the role of the pri-vate sector in plantation establishmentin these countries is likely to be signifi-cantly greater. For example, the Gov-ernment of Thailand currently offerssubsidies of up to US$780 per hectarefor tree planting. This reflects a shift ingovernment policy from direct to indi-rect involvement in tree planting.

    Several countries in Central Americaand Africa also have utilized incentivepolicies to promote teak planting. Poli-cies in Central America, particularly inCosta Rica and Panama, are currentlyattracting much attention. Costa Ricasincentive system includes a direct pay-ment to plantation owners for provisionof environmental services, financed bya selective consumption tax on hydro-carbon fuels. It also includes exemp-tion from various taxes as well as accessto credit and payment of a subsidy inthe first five years of the plantationslife. In Panama, investments in forestry(including land costs) are fully deduct-

    Myanmar is the largest exporter of teak

    sawntimber; here,processing of a teak log at a sawmill of the Myanmar

    Timber Enterprises

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    ible for income tax purposes. Thispolicy has triggered speculation lead-ing to an upward spiral in land prices.Import duties are also waived on equip-ment and machinery used in plantationactivities.

    In Africa, much planting is still car-ried out by government agencies or aspart of externally assisted afforestationor reforestation projects. Nonetheless,private-sector interests are becoming in-creasingly active in plantation estab-lishment, often assisted by governmentincentives. Examples in Ghana includethe development of several private-sector-funded out-grower schemes andplans to establish a Plantation ForestDevelopment Fund which would be ini-tiated through an export levy on air-dried timber (Odoom, 1998).

    Trade policies and related measuresTrade-related measures that may influ-ence teak growing and markets includenational import tariff structures appliedto teak products, non-tariff measuressuch as requests for certification, and

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    boycotts by retailers or consumergroups.

    The Uruguay Round of the GeneralAgreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)formalized a general trend in trade lib-eralization for forest products, whichapplies also to trade in teak. In general,the most significant restrictions ontrade in primary teak products are those

    applied by potential exporting coun-tries, particularly log export bans andexport taxes on sawn timber. Nonethe-less, considerable import tariffs, com-monly 10 to 15 percent, are still appliedto some processed products, such as join-ery and furniture, in important devel-oped-country markets. Such tariffs canlead to discouragingly high prices forteak products. Probably the most sig-nificant recent change influencing glo-bal teak trade was the removal, in 1992,of import licensing requirements forlogs in India. As a consequence India isnow able to import large volumes of teak logs, particularly from Africa, to make

    up for the domestic shortfall caused bythe countrys restrictions on teak log-ging.

    ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUESIndiscriminate, unmanaged cutting hasbeen the primary cause of clearance ordegradation of most natural teak forestsin Thailand, the Lao Peoples Demo-

    cratic Republic and India. In Myanmar,the use of the Myanmar Selection Sys-tem, or variants of it, should continueto help avoid controversy. Nonetheless,at least one recent consumer crusade inthe United States has campaignedagainst buying Myanmar teak.

    The increasing proportion of teak coming from plantation forests mayavoid some environmental controver-sies but sometimes attracts others. Teak is a pioneer species and as such is gen-erally susceptible to competition fromother plant species. Clearing under-growth and debris may assist teak growth in the short term, but almost in-

    evitably at the cost of longer-term sitedegradation. Practices that expose thesoil to the elements, such as litter rak-ing and excessive burning, may particu-larly exacerbate erosion and leachingproblems in teak plantations, whichtend to have wide tree spacing and areprone to leaf drip. In general, most of the environmental criticisms directed

    at teak plantations are the result of suchinappropriate management techniquesrather than irrevocable plantation char-acteristics. In some countries the aban-donment of poor management practiceshas assisted in retaining site fertility.

    Although not specifically targeted,teak plantations have been included ingeneral anti-plantation campaignswhich are based on the premise thatplantations especially single-speciesplantations (forest monocultures) tend to have lower levels of biodiversitythan natural forests and may also bemore susceptible to catastrophic dam-age, especially from pests and diseases

    A natural teak stand managed under the Myanmar Selection


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    C I F I C

    / M .KA

    S HI O

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    but also from wind, storms and fires. In anumber of countries, mixed plantationsare being established to provide bettersoil cover and stability, to increasebiodiversity and to reduce commercialrisks.

    Certification of forest products haspotential to affect teak products. Com-panies and countries supplying marketsin Europe and North America, where theinterest in certified forest products ishighest, may find some form of certifi-cation for teak a cost-effective optionfor increasing market share. That teak is generally sold into high-value nichemarkets adds to the attractiveness andviability of the option. To date, the areaof teak forests with internationally rec-ognized certification appears relativelysmall, as suggested by the fact that plan-tation forests in general have been cer-tified, according to standards set by theForest Stewardship Council, in onlyfour of the 35 countries currently knownto be growing teak: Costa Rica, Indo-nesia, Panama and Sri Lanka.

    CONCLUSIONSAs the sustainable supply of teak fromnatural forests (now almost exclusivelyfrom Myanmar) diminishes and the de-mand continues to increase, the general

    trend in the future of teak growing willbe towards increasing production andutilization of plantation-grown teak.This suggests a need for enhancedknowledge regarding diverse aspects of teak plantation establishment as wellas silviculture, management, utiliza-tion and ecological aspects of both plan-tations and natural stands. In particu-lar, further investigation is requiredregarding the possible differences intimber properties between short-rota-tion plantation-grown teak and teak grown in natural or other long-rotationstands. Such research needs to encom-pass the effects of seed source (origin

    and provenance) and site on growthrates and wood quality. New research isalso needed on the effects of pruning ongrowth and wood quality, the effects onthe site of growing teak in mixed plan-tations (where experiments establishedin the past might be re-evaluated) andthe environmental impacts and sustain-ability of productivity of short-rotationplantations, including the differencesin yield or timber properties from sec-ond or subsequent rotations.

    Several countries are interested inimproving financial returns from teak plantations through utilization of thinnings and small roundwood. To thisend studies are being conducted on con-version techniques for small round-wood, techniques for reconstitutingsmall sawnwood as larger material, andmarket opportunities for small-dimen-sion timber or components.

    The increasing importance of planta-tions in teak production suggests vary-ing prospects for other valuable hard-wood species in terms of futurecommercial timber production. Speciesthat adapt readily to plantation man-agement, such as mahogany, shouldcontinue to be important sources of high-quality timber. Those that are lessecologically robust or that perform

    poorly under intensive managementregimes are likely to be marginalizedas commercial wood producing species.Thus, in the long term, it is likely that ahandful of tropical hardwoods, includ-ing teak and mahogany, will occupyniches at the high end of solidwoodmarkets, while the range of competingspecies is likely to be significantlyreduced. x


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